Email Clock, a networked clock that reads email

Tom Igoe

Like every person who spends most of his day in front of a computer, Tom Igoe is obsessed by his email. Researcher and Teacher at NYU Interactive Teleccommunications Program (ITP), he can’t stop checking his inbox constantly. Unfortunately the evolution of the email programs, that alert the users as soon as a message comes in, is Email Clock feeding this obsession. This is why Igoe decided to invent a device that hopefully will allow him to get rid of the anxiety generated by the email flow. It’s called Email Clock, it’s a work in progress and consists in an analogic clock that reads email. This Newtworked Sculpture, as its author refers to it, would run at a normal pace when there is no email waiting , but every new kilobyte of email would drive it hyperactively forward. A java application living on an application server would check Tom’s email accounts, noting when new data arrived. With each new message, the application would send the number of bytes to a microcontroller attached to the internet. The microcontroller would then move the clock. If this device is going to be successful in allevieting anxiety over the inbox is not certain. However it is a good example of what Physical Computing is, that is an approach to learning how humans communicate through computers that starts by considering how humans express themselves physically. Taking the body as a given, physical computing researchers have to learn how a computer converts the changes in energy given off by our bodies, in the form of heat, light, sound, and so forth, into changing electronic signals that it can read interpret. In this case the computer will hopefully absorb the bad vibes produced by anxiety – The irony that hides behind this idea makes the Email Clock a real Smile Machine.

Valentina Culatti